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Pierce thankful she didn't toss in towel after all the injuries
By Don Norcross
July 29 2003
San Dieogo Union Tribune

CARLSBAD – It has been three years since Mary Pierce won a tennis tournament.

Her Australian Open victory dates back to 1995. Her French Open title goes back to 2000.

Since then, Pierce, 28, a professional nearly half her life, has paid a steep price for playing such a physically demanding game.

In 2000, she was sidelined for three months with a shoulder injury.

In 2001, a bulging and herniated disk shelved her for seven months.

In 2002, she had difficulty seeing the ball at night, underwent Lasik surgery twice and lost another nine weeks to an abdominal strain.

Once ranked No. 3 in the world, Pierce watched her ranking plummet to No. 130.

She is battling back now and ranked 75. Yesterday, she pulled off an encouraging performance, defeating 55th-ranked Virginie Razzano of France 6-1, 6-3.

"I felt more explosive, more powerful," said Pierce.

Pierce admitted dealing with the injuries taxed her. "It's really frustrating," she said. "It's disheartening at times. Confusing. It's really hard sometimes when you want to do something.

"Mentally, you're there. But physically, you're not. You just kind of get tired of it."

Pierce said she never thought of quitting.

"I just feel I haven't achieved everything that's possible for me in tennis yet," she said. "Whatever that is, I'm not sure. I just feel the best for me is still yet to come."

Asked what kept her sane, Pierce said it was her companions, her long-haired Chihuahuas, Gilbert and Ginger.

"I hung out with my dogs," she said.

No love lost

Reigning French Open champion Justine Henin-Hardenne knows hardship.

At 12, she lost her mother to intestinal cancer. At 17, she moved away from her father and brother, saying they were trying to take advantage of her tennis career.

"Tennis was too important for them," she said. "They were seeing me (only) as a tennis player."

Henin-Hardenne has not spoken to her father for two years. There are no plans for a reconciliation.

"It's a closed door," she said. "When I think about that, I'm not emotional anymore.

"I wanted to have my identity. I just wanted to be myself. I'm not playing anymore for other people now. I'm playing for myself."

Easy come

Henin-Hardenne's signature shot is a graceful one-handed backhand.

"It's a nice gift," she said. "I never worked especially on my backhand. It's always been natural."

Not content
Days after winning the French, Henin-Hardenne sat alone in her Belgium home.

In solitude, she reviewed videotapes of her Roland Garros victory, the first Grand Slam victory ever for a Belgian.

"You have to enjoy it at the moment because it's so short," she said. "It's too short. It's just seconds."

Rather than indulging and replaying her victory over Serena Williams, Henin-Hardenne turned contemplative.

"You have to think about what you want to do, and I know what I want to do," she said. "I want to feel what I felt at the French Open. I want to feel it again."



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